Warner Bros. Discovery-Owned Regional Sports Networks Fail to Make Full Payments to Three MLB Teams In Latest Blow to RSNs
Sinclair Broadcasting Group subsidiary Diamond Sports Group made headlines this week when it announced it would miss a scheduled $140 million payment on its debt, meaning a bankruptcy declaration is likely soon to follow. As it turns out, DSG is not the only owner of regional sports networks (RSNs) that’s having trouble coming up with contractually obligated payments to teams.
Sportico reports that three RSNs operated by AT&T SportsNet handed over lighter-than-anticipated checks to the MLB teams they cover. The three affected teams are the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, and Pittsburgh Pirates, whose games are offered by AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and AT&T SportsNet Southwest in their respective markets.
The AT&T SportsNet RSNs are owned by Warner Bros. Discovery. WBD became owner when Discovery acquired AT&T's Warner Media in April 2022, but WBD executives claimed to be unaware of any problems when asked about the less-than-expected payments by their RSNs to baseball teams.
WBD clearly doesn’t think much of the three RSNs as an asset. No action has been taken by the company to update logos or branding on any of the three networks, despite the passage of nearly a year since WBD first took ownership of the RSNs from AT&T.
Indeed, WBD may be looking to part ways with the networks as soon as possible. Sportico’s reporting indicates that one insider with knowledge of the situation says the partial payments by the RSNs could be interpreted as a sign that WBD wants to get out of the regional sports business altogether.
That would certainly be in keeping with other cost-cutting measures that have taken place at the company in the last year. WBD incurred merger-associated costs and fees of more than $5 billion, which led to deep content cuts for the company’s premium streaming service HBO Max.
The struggles of AT&T SportsNet RSNs are yet another indication that the RSN model might be unsalvagably doomed. RSNs serve as middlemen between consumers and cable companies, but the decline of cable TV subscribers has meant there simply aren’t enough people paying into the top of the funnel for the model to make financial sense. Things haven’t progressed to the level of distress that DSG is in with its collection of 19 Bally Sports RSNs, but they’re certainly trending in that direction.